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The Family Reunion 

by T. S. Eliot 









The Family Reunion 

A play byT.S. ELIOT 

Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York 



This play is fully protected under the copyright laws of the 
United States of America, the British Empire, including 
the Dominion of Canada, and all other countries of the 
Copyright Union, and is subject to royalty. No performance, 
whether amateur or professional, may take place in the 
United States of America or Canada without a licence. 
Such licence can only be obtained from the Mercury 
Theatre, 2 Ladbroke Road, London, IV. 1 1, England, or 
from the American agents who may be accredited by the 
Author in due course. All enquiries will be answered by 
the publishers, Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc., 
383 Madison Avenue, New York, N. Y. 

Designed by Robert Josephy 



Amy, Dowager Lady Monchensey 

Ivy, Violet, and Agatha, 

her younger sisters 

Col. the Hon. Gerald Piper, and the 

Hon. Charles Piper, 

brothers of her deceased husband 


daughter of a deceased cousin of Lady Monchensey 

Denman, a parlourmaid 

Harry, Lord Monchensey, Amy's eldest son 

Downing, his servant and chauffeur 

Dr. Warburton 

Sergeant Winchell 

The Eumenides 

The scene is laid in a country house in the 
North of England 


The Drawing Room, After Tea. 
An Afternoon in Late March 

Scene I 

Amy, Ivy, Violet, Agatha, Gerald, 

Charles, Mary 
Denman enters to draw the curtains 


Not yet! I will ring for you. It is still quite light. 

I have nothing to do but watch the days draw out, 

Now that I sit in the house from October to June, 

And the swallow comes too soon and the spring will be 

And the cuckoo will be gone before I am out again. 

O Sun, that was once so warm, O Light that was taken 
for granted 

When I was young and strong, and sun and light un- 
sought for 

And the night unfeared and the day expected 

And clocks could be trusted, tomorrow assured 

And time would not stop in the dark! 

Put on the lights. But leave the curtains undrawn. 

Make up the fire. Will the spring never come? I am 



Wishwood was always a cold place, Amy. 


I have always told Amy she should go south in the win- 

Were I in Amy's position, I would go south in the win- 

I would follow the sun, not wait for the sun to come 

I would go south in the winter, if I could afford it, 

Not freeze, as I do, in Bayswater, by a gas-fire counting 



Go south! to the English circulating libraries, 

To the military widows and the English chaplains, 

To the chilly deck-chair and the strong cold tea— 

The strong cold stewed bad Indian tea. 

That's not Amy's style at all. We are country-bred 

Amy has been too long used to our ways 
Living with horses and dogs and guns 
Ever to want to leave England in the winter. 
But a single man like me is better off in London: 
A man can be very cosy at his club 
Even in an English winter. 


Well, as for me, 

I'd just as soon be a subaltern again 
To be back in the East. An incomparable climate 
For a man who can exercise a little common prudence; 
And your servants look after you very much better. 

My servants are perfectly competent, Gerald. 
I can still see to that. 

Well, as for me, 
I would never go south, no, definitely never, 
Even could I do it as well as Amy: 
England's bad enough, I would never go south, 
Simply to see the vulgarest people— 
You can keep out of their way at home; 
People with money from heaven knows where— 

Dividends from aeroplane shares. 

They bathe all day and they dance all night 
In the absolute minimum of clothes. 

It's the cocktail-drinking does the harm: 
There's nothing on earth so bad for the young. 
All that a civilised person needs 
Is a glass of dry sherry or two before dinner. 
The modern young people don't know what they're 


Modern young people don't care what they're eating; 

They've lost their sense of taste and smell 

Because of their cocktails and cigarettes. 

[Enter Denman with sherry and whisky. Charles takes 

sherry and Gerald whisky.] 
That's what it comes to. 

[Lights a cigarette.] 


The younger generation 
Are undoubtedly decadent. 


The younger generation 
Are not what we were. Haven't the stamina, 
Haven't the sense of responsibility. 

-^ You're being very hard on the younger generation. 
I don't come across them very much now, myself; 
But I must say I've met some very decent specimens 
And some first-class shots— better than you were, 
Charles, as I remember. Besides, you've got to make al- 
We haven't left them such an easy world to live in. 
Let the younger generation speak for itself: 
It's Mary's generation. What does she think about it? 

Really, Cousin Gerald, if you want information 
About the younger generation, you must ask someone 


I'm afraid that I don't deserve the compliment: 

I don't belong to any generation. 


Really, Gerald, I must say you're very tactless, 
And I think that Charles might have been more con- 


I'm very sorry: but why was she upset? 

I only meant to draw her into the conversation. 

She's a nice girl; but it's a difficult age for her. 
I suppose she must be getting on for thirty? 
She ought to be married, that's what it is. 

So she should have been, if things had gone as I in- 
Harry's return does not make things easy for her 
At the moment: but life may still go right. 
Meanwhile, let us drop the subject. The less said the 



That reminds me, Amy, 

When are the boys all due to arrive? 


I do not want the clock to stop in the dark. 
If you want to know why I never leave Wishwood 
That is the reason. I keep Wishwood alive 
To keep the family alive, to keep them together, 

To keep me alive, and I live to keep them. 

You none of you understand how old you are 

And death will come to you as a mild surprise, 

A momentary shudder in a vacant room. 

Only Agatha seems to discover some meaning in death 

Which I cannot find. 

—I am only certain of Arthur and John, 

Arthur in London, John in Leicestershire: 

They should both be here in good time for dinner. 

Harry telephoned to me from Marseilles, 

He would come by air to Paris, and so to London, 

And hoped to arrive in the course of the evening. 

Harry was always the most likely to be late. 

This time, it will not be his fault. 
We are very lucky to have Harry at all. 


And when will you have your birthday cake, Amy, 
And open your presents? 


After dinner: 
That is the best time. 


It is the first time 
You have not had your cake and your presents at tea. 


This is a very particular occasion 
As you ought to know. It will be the first time 
~> For eight years that we have all been together. 

It is going to be rat^r^DainfuHorHarry 
After eight years and all that has happened 
To come back to Wishwood. 


Why, painful? 

Gerald! you know what Agatha means. 

I mean painful, because everything is irrevocable, 
Because the past is irremediable, 
Because the future can only be built 
Upon the real past. Wandering in the tropics 
Or against the painted scene of the Mediterranean, 
Harry must often have remembered Wishwood— 
The nursery tea, the school holiday, 
The daring feats on the old pony, 
And thought to creep back through the little door. 
He will find a new Wishwood. Adaptation is hard. 

Nothing is changed, Agatha, at Wishwood. 
Everything is kept as it was when he left it, 
Except the old pony, and the mongrel setter 

Which I had to have destroyed. 

Nothing has been changed. I have seen to that. 


Yes. I mean that at Wishwood he will find another 


The boy who left. Round by the stables, 

In the coach-house, in the orchard, 

In the plantation, down the corridor 

That led to the nursery, round the corner 

Of the new wing, he will have to face him— 

And it will not be a very jolly corner. 

When the loop in time comes— and it does not come 
for everybody— 

The hidden is revealed, and the spectres show them- 


I don't in the least know what you're talking about. 
You seem to be wanting to give us all the hump. 
I must say, this isn't cheerful for Amy's birthday 
Or for Harry's homecoming. Make him feel at home, 

I say! 
Make him feel that what has happened doesn't matter. 
He's taken his medicine, I've no doubt. 
Let him marry, again and carry on at Wishwood. 

Thank you, Gerald. Though Agatha means 
As a rule, a good deal more than she cares to betray, 
I am bound to say that I agree with you. 

I never wrote to him when he lost his wife— 
That was just about a year ago, wasn't it? 
Do you think that I ought to mention it now? 
It seems to me too late. 


Much too late. 
If he wants to talk about it, that's another matter; 
But I don't believe he will. He will wish to forget it. 
I do not mince matters in front of the family: 
You can call it nothing but a blessed relief. 

/ call it providential. 


Yet it must have been shocking, 
Especially to lose anybody in that way— 
f'Swept off the deck in the middle of a storm, 
vAnd never even to recover the body. 

"Well-known Peeress Vanishes from Liner." 


Yes, it's odd to think of her as permanently missing. 

Had she been drinking? 


I would never ask him. 


These things are much better not enquired into. 
She may have done it in a fit of temper. 


I never met her. 


I am very glad you did not. 

I am very glad that none of you ever met her. 

It will make the situation very much easier 

And is why I was so anxious you should all be here. 

She never would have been one of the family, 

She never wished to be one of the family, 

\ She only wanted to keep him to herself 

To satisfy her vanity. That's why she dragged him 

All over Europe and half round the world 

To expensive hotels and undesirable society 

Which she could choose herself. She never wanted 

Harry's relations or Harry's old friends; 

She never wanted to fit herself to Harry, 

But only to bring Harry down to her own level. 

A restless shivering painted shadow 

In life, she is less than a shadow in death. 

You might as well all of you know the truth 

For the sake of the future. There can be no grief 

And no regret and no remorse. 

I would have prevented it if I could. For the sake of the 


£* Harry is to take command at Wishwood 

And I hope we can contrive his future happiness. 


Do not discuss his absence. Please behave only 
As if nothing had happened in the last eight years. 


That will be a little difficult. 


Nonsense, Gerald! 
You must see for yourself it's the only thing to do. 

Thus with most careful devotion 
Thus with precise attention 
To detail, interfering preparation 
Of that which is already prepared 
Men tighten the knot of confusion 
Into perfect misunderstanding, 
Reflecting a pocket-torch of observation 
Upon each other's opacity 
Neglecting all the admonitions 
From the world around the corner 
The wind's talk in the dry holly-tree 
The inclination of the moon 
The attraction of the dark passage 
The paw under the door. 

>" Chorus [Ivy, Violet, Gerald and Charles] 

Why do we feel embarrassed, impatient, fretful, ill at 

Assembled like amateur actors who have not been as- 
signed their parts? 


Like amateur actors in a dream when the curtain rises, 
to find themselves dressed for a different play, or 
(_ having rehearsed the wrong parts, 
Waiting for the rustling in the stalls, the titter in the 
dress circle, the laughter and catcalls in the gal- 


I might have been in St. James's Street, in a comfort- 
able chair rather nearer the fire. 


I might have been visiting Cousin Lily at Sidmouth, 
if I had not had to come to this party. 

I might have been staying with Compton-Smith, down 
at his place in Dorset. 

I should have been helping Lady Bumpus, at the Vicar's 
American Tea. 

Yet we are here at Amy's command, to play an unread 
part in some monstrous farce, ridiculous in some 
nightmare pantomime. 


What's that? I thought I saw someone pass the window. 

What time is it? 


Nearly twenty to seven. 

John should be here now, he has the shortest way to 

John at least, if not Arthur. Hark, there is someone 

Yes, it must be John. 
[Enter Harry.] 

[Harry stops suddenly at the door and stares at 
the window.] 


Welcome, Harry! 

Well done! 

Welcome home to Wish wood! 

Why, what's the matter? 

Harry, if you want the curtains drawn you should let 
me ring for Denman. 

How can you sit in this blaze of light for all the world 

to look at? 
If you knew how you looked, when I saw you through 

the window! 
Do you like to be stared at by eyes through a window? 

You forget, Harry, that you are at Wishwood, 
Not in town, where you have to close the blinds. 
There is no one to see you but our servants who belong 

And who all want to see you back, Harry. 

Look there, look there: do you see them? 

No, I don't see anyone about. 


No, no, not there. Look there! 
Can't you see them? You don't see them, but I see 

And they see me. This is the first time that I have seen 

In the Java Straits, in the Sunda Sea, 
In the sweet sickly tropical night, I knew they were 

In Italy, from behind the nightingale's thicket, 
The eyes stared at me, and corrupted that song. 
Behind the palm trees in the Grand Hotel 
They were always there. But I did not see them. 
Why should they wait until I came back to Wishwood? 
There were a thousand places where I might have met 

Why here? why here? 


Many happy returns of the day, mother. 

Aunt Ivy, Aunt Violet, Uncle Gerald, Uncle Charles, 



We are very glad to have you back, Harry. 

Now we shall all be together for dinner. 

The servants have been looking forward to your com- 

Would you like to have them in after dinner 

Or wait till tomorrow? I am sure you must be tired. 

You will find everybody here, and everything the 

Mr. Bevan— you remember— wants to call tomorrow 

On some legal business, a question about taxes— 

But I think you would rather wait till you are rested. 

Your room is all ready for you. Nothing has been 



Changed? nothing changed? how can you say that noth- 
ing is changed? 
You all look so withered and young. 

We must have a ride tomorrow. 
You'll find you know the country as well as ever. 
There wasn't an inch of it you didn't know. 
But you'll have to see about a couple of new hunters. 

And I've a new wine merchant to recommend you; 
Your cellar could do with a little attention. 


And you'll really have to find a successor to old Haw- 
It's really high time the old man was pensioned. 
He's let the rock garden go to rack and ruin, 
And he's nearly half blind. I've spoken to your mother 
Time and time again: she's done nothing about it 
Because she preferred to wait for your coming. 

And time and time again I have spoken to your mother 
About the waste that goes on in the kitchen. 
Mrs. Packell is too old to know what she is doing. 
It really needs a man in charge of things at Wishwood. 

You see your aunts and uncles are very helpful, Harry. 
I have always found them forthcoming with advice 
Which I have never taken. Now it is your business. 
I have only struggled to keep Wishwood going 
And to make no changes before your return. 
Now it's for you to manage. I am an old woman. 
They can give me no further advice when I'm dead. 


Oh, dear Amy! 

No one wants you to die, I'm sure! 

Now that Harry's back, is the time to think of living. 

Time and time and time, and change, no change! 
You all of you try to talk as if nothing had happened, 

And yet you are talking of nothing else. Why not get to 

the point 

Or if you want to pretend that I am another person— 

A person that you have conspired to invent, please do so 

In my absence. I shall be less embarrassing to you. 



I think, Harry, that having got so far— 

If you want no pretences, let us have no pretences: 

And you must try at once to make us understand, 

And we must try to understand you. 

But how can I explain, how can I explain to you? 
You will understand less after I have explained it. 
All that I could hope to make you understand 
Is only events: not what has happened. 
And people to whom nothing has ever happened 
Cannot understand the unimportance of events. 

Well, you can't say that nothing has happened to me. 
I started as a youngster on the North West Frontier- 
Been in tight corners most of my life 
And some pretty nasty messes. 

And there isn't much would surprise me, Harry; 
Or shock me, either. 

You are all people 

To whom nothing has happened, at most a continual 

Of external events. You have gone through life in sleep, 
Never woken to the nightmare. I tell you, life would be 

If you were wide awake. You do not know 
The noxious smell untraceable in the drains, 
Inaccessible to the plumbers, that has its hour of the 

night; you do not know 
The unspoken voice of sorrow in the ancient bedroom 
At three o'clock in the morning. I am not speaking 
Of my own experience, but trying to give you 
Comparisons in a more familiar medium. I am the old 

With the noxious smell and the sorrow before morning, 
In which all past is present, all degradation 
Is unredeemable. As for what happens— 
Of the past you can only see what is past, 
Not what is always present. That is what matters. 

Nevertheless, Harry, best tell us as you can: 
Talk in your own language, without stopping to debate 
Whether it may be too far beyond our understanding. 


The sudden solitude in a crowded desert 

In a thick smoke, many creatures moving 

Without direction, for no direction 

Leads anywhere but round and round in that vapour— 


Without purpose, and without principle of conduct 

In flickering intervals of light and darkness; 

The partial anaesthesia of suffering without feeling 

And partial observation of one's own automatism 

While the slow stain sinks deeper through the skin I 

Tainting the flesh and discolouring the bone— 

This is what matters, but it is unspeakable, 

Untranslatable: I talk in general terms 

Because the particular has no language. One thinks to 

By violence, but one is still alone 
In an over-crowded desert, jostled by ghosts. 
It was only reversing the senseless direction 
For a momentary rest on the burning wheel 
That cloudless night in the mid-Atlantic 
When I pushed her over. 

Pushed her? 


You would never imagine anyone could sink so quickly. 
f I had always supposed, wherever I went 
^That she would be with me; whatever I did 
/That she was unkillable. It was not like that. 
Everything is true in a different sense. 
I expected to find her when I went back to the cabin. 
Later, I became excited, I think I made enquiries; 
The purser and the steward were extremely sympa- 


And the doctor very attentive. 
That night I slept heavily, alone. 


You mustn't indulge such dangerous fancies. 
It's only doing harm to your mother and yourself. 
Of course we know what really happened, we read it in 

the papers- 
No need to revert to it. Remember, my boy, 
I understand, your life together made it seem more 

There's a lot in my own past life that presses on my 

When I wake, as I do now, early before morning. 
I understand these feelings better than you know— 
But you have no reason to reproach yourself. 
Your conscience can be clear. 


It goes a good deal deeper 
Than what people call their conscience; it is just the 

That eats away the self. I knew how you would take it. 
First of all, you isolate the single event 
As something so dreadful that it couldn't have hap- 
Because you could not bear it. So you must believe 
That I suffer from delusions. It is not my conscience, 

Not my mind, that i s diseased , but the world I have to 

—I lay two days in contented drowsiness; 
Then I recovered. I am afraid of sleep: 
A condition in which one can be caught for the last 

And also waking. She is nearer than ever. 
The contamination has reached the marrow 
And (hey are always near. Here, nearer than ever. 
They are very close here. I had not expected that. 

Harry, Harry, you are very tired 
And overwrought. Coming so far 
And making such haste, the change is too sudden for 

You are unused to our foggy climate 
And the northern country. When you see Wishwood 
Again by day, all will be the same again. 
I beg you to go now and rest before dinner. 
Get Downing to draw you a hot bath, 
And you will feel better. 

There are certain points I do not yet understand: 
They will be clear later. I am also convinced 
That you only hold a fragment of the explanation. 
It is only because of what you do not understand 
That you feel the need to declare what you do. 
There is more to understand: hold fast to that 
As the way to freedom. 



I think I see what you mean, 
Dimly— as you once explained the sobbing in the chim- 

) ne Y 

The evil in the dark closet, which they said was not 
S-' there, 

Which they explained away, but you explained them 

Or at least, made me cease to be afraid of them. 

I will go and have my bath. 


God preserve us! 

I never thought it would be as bad as this. 

There is only one thing to be done: 
Harry must see a doctor. 


But I understand— 
I have heard of such cases before— that people in his 

Often betray the most immoderate resentment 
At such a suggestion. They can be very cunning— 
Their malady makes them so. They do not want to be 

And they know what you are thinking. 

\' ^ He has probably let this notion grow in his mind, 
C_ Living among strangers, with no one to talk to. 

I suspect it is simply that the wish to get rid of her 
Makes him believe he did. He cannot trust his good 

I believe that all he needs is someone to talk to, 
To get it off his mind. I'll have a talk to him tomorrow. 

Most certainly not, Charles, you are not the right 

I prefer to believe that a few days at Wishwood 
Among his own family, is all that he needs. 


Nevertheless, Amy, there's something in Violet's sug- 

Why not ring up Warburton, and ask him to join us? 

He's an old friend of the family, it's perfectly natural 

That he should be asked. He looked after all the boys 

When they were children. I'll have a word with him. 

He can talk to Harry, and Harry need have no sus- 

I'd trust Warburton's opinion. 


£""■" If anyone speaks to Dr. Warburton 

( It should be myself. What does Agatha think? 

It seems a necessary move 
In an unnecessary action, 
Not for the good that it will do 

But that nothing may be left undone 
On the margin of the impossible. 


Very well. 

I will ring up the doctor myself. 


Meanwhile, I have an idea. Why not question Down- 
He's been with Harry ten years, he's absolutely discreet. 
He was with them on the boat. He might be of use. 


Charles! you don't really suppose 
That he might have pushed her over? 

In any case, I shouldn't blame Harry. 
I might have done the same thing once, myself. 
Nobody knows what he's likely to do 
Until there's somebody he wants to get rid of. 

Even so, we don't want Downing to know 
Any more than he knows already. 
And even if he knew, it's very much better 
That he shouldn't know that we knew it also. 
Why not let sleeping dogs lie? 

All the same, there's a question or two 

[Rings the bell.] 
That I'd like to ask Downing. 

He shan't know why I'm asking. 
[Enter Den man.] 

Denman, where is Downing? Is he up with his Lord- 


He's out in the garage, Sir, with his Lordship's car. 


Tell him I'd like to have a word with him, please. 

[Exit Denman.] 

Charles, if you are determined upon this investigation, 
Which I am convinced is going to lead us nowhere, 
And which I am sure Amy would disapprove of— 
I only wish to express my emphatic protest 
Both against your purpose and the means you are em- 
^/^ Charles 

I ^ My purpose is, to find out what's wrong with Harry: 
Q Until we know that, we can do nothing for him. 
And as for my means, we can't afford to be squeamish 
In taking hold of anything that comes to hand. 
If you are interested in helping Harry 
You can hardly object to the means. 


I do object. 
And I wish to associate myself with my sister 
In her objections— 



I have no objection, 

Any more than I object to asking Dr. Warburton: 

I only see that this is all quite irrelevant; 

We had better leave Charles to talk to Downing 

And pursue his own methods. 


I do not agree. 

I think there should be witnesses. I intend to remain. 

And I wish to be present to hear what Downing says. 

I want to know at once, not be told about it later. 


And I shall stay with Violet. 


I shall return 

When Downing has left you. 


Well, I'm very sorry 

You all see it like this: but there simply are times 

When there's nothing to do but take the bull by the 


And this is one. 

[Knock: and enter Downing.] 

Good evening, Downing. 
It's good to see you again, after all these years. 
You're well, I hope? 


Thank you, very well indeed, Sir. 

I'm sorry to send for you so abruptly, 
But I've a question I'd like to put to you, 
I'm sure you won't mind, it's about his Lordship. 
You've looked after his Lordship for over ten years . . . 

Eleven years, Sir, next Lady Day. 

Eleven years, and you know him pretty well. 
And I'm sure that you've been a good friend to him, too. 
We haven't seen him for nearly eight years; 
And to tell the truth, now that we've seen him, 
We're a little worried about his health. 
He doesn't seem to be . . . quite himself. 

Quite natural, if I may say so, Sir, 
After what happened. 

Quite so, quite. 
Downing, you were with them on the voyage from 

New York— 
We didn't learn very much about the circumstances; 
We only knew what we read in the papers— 
Of course, there was a great deal too much in the papers. 

Downing, do you think that it mightjiayg been su icide. * 

And that his Lordship knew it? 

S tJnlikely, Sir, if I may say so. 
(^ Much more likely to have been an accident. 

I mean, knowing her Ladyship, 

I don't think she had the courage. 

Did she ever talk of suicide? 

Oh, yes, she did, every now and again. 
But in my opinion, it is those that talk 
That are the least likely. To my way of thinking 
She only did it to frighten people. 
If you take my meaning— just for the effect. 

I understand, Downing. Was she in good spirits? 

Well, always about the same, Sir. 
What I mean is, always up and down. 
Down in the morning, and up in the evening, 
And then she used to get rather excited, 
And, in a way, irresponsible, Sir. 
If I may make so bold, Sir, 
I always thought that a very few cocktails 
Went a long way with her Ladyship. 

She wasn't one of those that are designed for drinking: 
It's natural for some and unnatural for others. 

And how was his Lordship, during the voyage? 

Well, you might say depressed, Sir. 
But you know his Lordship was always very quiet: 
Very uncommon that I saw him in high spirits. 
For what my judgment's worth, I always said his Lord- 
Suffered from what they call a kind of repression. 
But what struck me . . . more nervous than usual; 
I mean to say, you could see that he was nervous. 
He behaved as if he thought something might happen. 

What sort of thing? 

Well, I don't know, Sir. 
But he seemed very anxious about my Lady. 
Tried to keep her in when the weather was rough, 
Didn't like to see her lean over the rail. 
He was in a rare fright, once or twice. 
But you know, it is just my opinion, Sir, 
That his Lordship is rather psychic, as they say. 

Were they always together? 


Always, Sir. 
That was just my complaint against my Lady. 
It's my opinion that man and wife 
Shouldn't see too much of each other, Sir. 
Quite the contrary of the usual opinion, 
I dare say. She wouldn't leave him alone. 
And there's my complaint against these ocean liners 
With all their swimming baths and gymnasiums 
There's not even a place where a man can go 
For a quiet smoke, where the women can't follow him. 
She wouldn't leave him out of her sight. 

During that evening, did you see him? 

Oh, yes, Sir, I'm sure I saw him. 
I don't mean to say that he had any orders— 
His Lordship is always most considerate 
About keeping me up. But when I say I saw him, 
I mean that I saw him accidental. 
You see, Sir, I was down in the Tourist, 
And I took a bit of air before I went to bed, 
And you could see the corner of the upper deck. 
And I remember, there I saw his Lordship 
Leaning over the rail, looking at the water- 
There wasn't a moon, but I was sure it was him. 
While I took my turn about, for near half an hour 
He stayed there alone, looking over the rail. 

Her Ladyship must have been all right then, 
Mustn't she, Sir? or else he'd have known it. 

Oh, yes . . . quite so. Thank you, Downing, 
I don't think we need you any more. 


Oh, Downing, 
Is there anything wrong with his Lordship's car? 


Oh, no, Sir, she's in good running order: 

I see to that. 


I only wondered 

Why you've been busy about it tonight. 

Nothing wrong, Sir: 
Only I like to have her always ready. 
Would there be anything more, Sir? 


Thank you, Downing; 
Nothing more. 

[Exit Downing.] 
Well, Charles, I must say, with your investigations, 
You seem to have left matters much as they were— 
Except for having brought Downing into it: 
Of which I disapprove. 



Of which you disapprove. 
But I believe that an unconscious accomplice is desir- 


Why should we stand here like guilty conspirators, 
waiting for some revelation 

When the hidden shall be exposed, and the newsboy 
shall shout in the street? 

When the private shall be made public, the common 

Flashlight for the picture papers: why do we huddle to- 

In a horrid amity of misfortune? why should we be im- 
plicated, brought in and brought together? 


I do not trust Charles with his confident vulgarity, ac- 
quired from worldly associates. 

Ivy is only concerned for herself, and her credit among 
her shabby genteel acquaintance. 

Gerald is certain to make some blunder, he is useless 
out of the army. 

Violet is afraid that her status as Amy's sister will be 



We all of us make the pretension 
To be the uncommon exception 
To the universal bondage. 
We like to appear in the newspapers 
So long as we are in the right column. 
We know about the railway accident 
We know about the sudden thrombosis 
And the slowly hardening artery/ 
We like to be thought well of by others 
So that we may think well of ourselves. 
And any explanation will satisfy: 
We only ask to be reassured 
About the noises^ in^ the jcellar 
And the window that should not have been open. 

Why do we all behave as if the door might suddenly 
open, the curtains be drawn, 

The cellar make some dreadful disclosure, the roof dis- 

And we should cease to be sure of what is real or un- 

Hold tight, hold tight, we must insist that the world is 
what we have always taken it to be. 

Amy's Voice 
Ivy! Violet! has Arthur or John come yet? 

There is no news of Arthur or John. 
[Enter Amy and Agatha.] 


It is very annoying. They both promised to be here 
In good time for dinner. It is very annoying. 
Now they can hardly arrive in time to dress. 
I do not understand what could have gone wrong 
With both of them, coming from different directions. 
Well, we must go and dress, I suppose. I hope Harry 

will feel better 
After his rest upstairs. 

[Exeunt, except Agatha.] 


Scene II 

[Enter Mary with flowers.] 


The spring is very late in this northern country, 

Late and uncertain, clings to the south wall. 

The gardener had no garden-flowers to give me for 

this evening. 


I always forget how late the spring is, here. 

I had rather wait for our windblown blossoms, 
Such as they are, than have these greenhouse flowers 
Which do not belong here, which do not know 
The wind and rain, as I know them. 

I wonder how many we shall be for dinner. 

Seven . . . nine . . . ten surely. 
I hear that Harry has arrived already 

And he was the only one that was uncertain. 
Arthur or John may be late, of course. 
We may have to keep the dinner back . . . 

And also Dr. Warburton. At least, Amy has invited him. 

Dr. Warburton? I think she might have told me; 
It is very difficult, having to plan 
For uncertain numbers. Why did she ask him? 

She only thought of asking him, a little while ago. 


"Well, there's something to be said for having an out- 
/ For what is more formal than a family dinner? 
) An official occasion of uncomfortable people 
\ _ Who meet very seldom, making conversation. 
I am very glad if Dr. Warburton is coming. 
I shall have to sit between Arthur and John. 
Which is worse, thinking of what to say to John, 
Or having to listen to Arthur's chatter 
When he thinks he is behaving like a man of the world? 
Cousin Agatha, I want your advice. 


I should have thought 
You had more than you wanted of that, when at college. 


I might have known you'd throw that up against me. 

I know I wasn't one of your favourite students: 

I only saw you as the principal 

Who knew the way of dominating timid girls. 

I don't see you any differently now; 

But I really wish that I'd taken your advice 

And tried for a fellowship, seven years ago. 

Now I want your advice, because there's no one else to 

And because you are strong, and because you don't be- 
long here 

Any more than I do. I want to get away. 

After seven years? 

Oh, you don't understand! 
But you do understand. You only want to know 
Whether I understand. You know perfectly well, 
What Cousin Amy wants, she usually gets. 
Why do you so seldom come here? You re not afraid 

of her, 
But I think you must have wanted to avoid collision. 
I suppose I could have gone, if I'd had the moral cour- 
Even against a will like hers. I know very well 
Why she wanted to keep me. She didn't need me: 
She would have done just as well with a hired servant 
Or with none. She only wanted me for Harry— 


Not such a compliment: she only wanted 

To have a tame daughter-in-law with very little money, 

A housekeeper-companion for her and Harry. 

Even when he married, she still held on to me 

Because she couldn't bear to let any project go; 

And even when she died: I believed that Cousin Amy— 

I almost believed it— had killed her by willing. 

Doesn't that sound awful? I know that it does. 

Did you ever meet her? What was she like? 

I am the only one who ever met her, 
The only one Harry asked to his wedding: 
Amy did not know that. I was sorry for her; 
I could see that she distrusted me— she was frightened 

of the family, 
She wanted to fight them— with the weapons of the 

Which are too violent. And it could not have been easy, 
Living with Harry. It's not what she did to Harry, 
That's important, I think, but what he did to himself. 

But it wasn't till I knew that Harry had returned 
That I felt the strength to go. I know I must go. 
But where? I want a job: and you can help me. 

I am very sorry, Mary, I am very sorry for you; 
Though you may not think me capable of such a feel- 


I would like to help you: but you must not run away. 
Any time before now, it would have shown courage 
And would have been right. Now, the courage is only 

the moment 
And the moment is only fear and pride. I see more than 


More than I can tell you, more than there are words for. 

At this moment, there is no decision to be made; 

The decision will be made by powers beyond us 

Which now and then emerge. You and I, Mary, ^/ 

Are only watchers and waiters: not the easiest role. 

I must go and change for dinner. 


So you will not help me! 

Waiting, waiting, always waiting. 

I think this house means to keep us waiting. 

[Enter Harry.] 


Waiting? For what? 

How do you do, Harry. 
You are down very early. I thought you had just ar- 
Did you have a comfortable journey? 


Not very. 

But, at least, it did not last long. How are you, Mary? 

Oh, very well. What are you looking for? 


I had only just noticed that this room is quite un- 

The same hangings . . . the same pictures . . . even 
the table, 

The chairs, the sofa ... all in the same positions. 

I was looking to see if anything was changed, 

But if so, I can't find it. 

Your mother insisted 
On everything being kept the same as when you left it. 

I wish she had not done that. It's very unnatural, 
This arresting of the normal change of things: 
But it's very like her. What I might have expected. 
It only makes the changing of people 
All the more manifest. 

Yes, nothing changes here, 
And we just go on . . . drying up, I suppose, 
Not noticing the change. But to you, I am sure, 
We must seem very altered. 

You have hardly changed at all — 
And I haven't seen you since you came down from 


Well, I must go and change for dinner. 
We do change— to that extent. 


No, don't go just yet. 

Are you glad to be at home? 


There was something 

I wanted to ask you. I don't know yet. 

All these years I'd been longing to get back 

Because I thought I never should. I thought it was a 

Where life was substantial and simplified— 
\ But the simplification took place in my memory, 
/ I think. It seems I shall get rid of nothing, 

Of none of the shadows that I wanted to escape; 

And at the same time, other memories, 

Earlier, forgotten, begin to return 

Out of my childhood. I can't explain. 

But I thought I might escape from one life to another, 

And it may be all one life, with no escape. Tell me, 

Were you ever happy here, as a child at Wishwood? 

Happy? not really, though I never knew why: 
It always seemed that it must be my own fault, 
And never to be happy was always to be naughty. 

But there were reasons: I was only a cousin 

Kept here because there was nothing else to do with me. 

I didn't belong here. It was different for you. 

And you seemed so much older. We were rather in awe 

of you— 

At least, I was. 


Why were we not happy? 

Well, it all seemed to be imposed upon us; 
Even the nice things were laid out ready, 
And the treats were always so carefully prepared; 
There was never any time to invent our own enjoy- 
But perhaps it was all designed for you, not for us. 

No, it didn't seem like that. I was part of the design 
As well as you. But what was the design? 
It never came off. But do you remember 


The hollow tree in what we called the wilderness 

Down near the river. That was the block house 
From which we fought the Indians. Arthur and John. 

It was the cave where we met by moonlight 
To raise the evil spirits. 



Arthur and John. 
Of course we were punished for being out at night 
After being put to bed. But at least they never knew 
Where we had been. 

They never found the secret. 

Not then. But later, coming back from school 
For the holidays, after the formal reception 
And the family festivities, I made my escape 
As soon as I could, and slipped down to the river 
To find the old hiding place. The wilderness was gone, 
The tree had been felled, and a neat summer-house l 
Had been erected, 'to please the children.' 
It's absurd that one's only memory of freedom y 
Should be a hollow tree in a wood by the river. 

C But when I was a child I took everything for granted, 

Including the stupidity of older people— 
i They lived in another world, which did not touch me. 

Just now, I find them very difficult to bear. 

They are always assured that you ought to be happy 

At the very moment when you are wholly conscious 

Of being a misfit, of being superfluous. 

But why should I talk about my commonplace troubles? 

They must seem very trivial indeed to you. 

It's just ordinary hopelessness. 


One thing you cannot know: 

The sudden extinction of every alternative, 

The unexpected crash of the iron cataract. 

<U You do not know what hope is, until you have lost it. 

(^ You only know what it is not to hope: 

You do not know what it is to have hope taken from 


Or to fling it away, to join the legion of the hopeless 

Unrecognised by other men, though sometimes by each 



I know what you mean. That is an experience 

I have not had. Nevertheless, however real, 

However cruel, it may be a deception. 


What I see 
May be one dream or another; if there is nothing else 
The most real is what I fear. The bright colour fades 
Together with the unrecapturable emotion, 
The glow upon the world, that never found its object; 
And the eye adjusts itself to a twilight 
Where the dead stone is seen to be batrachian, 
The aphyllous branch ophidian. 


You bring your own landscape 
No more real than the other. And in a way you contra- 
dict yourself: 
That sudden comprehension of the death of hope 

Of which you speak, I know you have experienced it, 
And I can well imagine how awful it must be. 
But in this world another hope keeps springing 
In an unexpected place, while we are unconscious of it. 
You hoped for something, in coming back to Wishwood, 
Or you would not have come. 


Whatever I hoped for 

Now that I am here I know I shall not find it. 

The instinct to return to the point of departure 

And start again as if nothing had happened, 

Isn't that all folly? It's like the hollow tree, 

Not there. 


But surely, what you say 
Only proves that you expected Wishwood 
To be your real self, to do something for you 
That you can only do for yourself. 
What you need to alter is something inside you 
Which you can change anywhere— here, as well as else- 


Something inside me, you think, that can be altered! 
And here, indeed! where I have felt them near me, 
Here and here and here— wherever I am not looking, 
Always flickering at the corner of my eye, 
Almost whispering just out of earshot— 
And inside too, in the nightly panic 
Of dreaming dissolution. You do not know, 
You cannot know, you cannot understand. 

I think I could understand, but you would have to be 

With me, and with people who have not had your ex- 


If I tried to explain, you could never understand: 
Explaining would only make a worse misunderstanding; 
Explaining would only set me farther away from you. 
There is only one way for you to understand 
And that is by seeing. They are much too clever 
To admit you into our world. Yours is no better. 
They have seen to that: it is part of the torment. 

If you think I am incapable of understanding you— 
But in any case, I must get ready for dinner. 

No, no, don't go! Please don't leave me 
Just at this moment. I feel it is important. 
Something should have come of this conversation. 

I am not a wise person, 

And in the ordinary sense I don't know you very well, 
Although I remember you better than you think, 
And what is the real you. I haven't much experience, 
But I see something now which doesn't come from 

Or from books, or from thinking, or from observation: 

Something which I did not know I knew. 

Even if, as you say, Wishwood is a cheat, 

Your family a delusion— than it's all a delusion, 

Everything you feel— I don't mean what you think, 

But what you feel. You ...attach. yourselLxaJc&jJaing «/ 

As ethers-do .to loving: an infatuation 

That's wrong, a good that's misdirected. You deceive 

Like the man convinced that he is paralysed 
Or like the man who believes that he is blind 
While he still sees the sunlight. I know that this is true. 


I have spent many years in useless travel; 

You have staid in England, yet you seem 

Like someone who comes from a very long distance, 

Or the distant waterfall in the forest, 

Inaccessible, half-heard. 

And I hear your voice as in the silence 

Between two storms, one hears the moderate usual 


In the grass and leaves, of life persisting, 

Which ordinarily pass unnoticed. 

Perhaps you are right, though I do not know 

How you should know it. Is the cold spring 

Is the spring not an evil time, that excites us with lying 



The cold spring now is the time 

For the ache in the moving root 

The agony in the dark 


The slow flow throbbing the trunk 

The pain of the breaking bud. 

These are the ones that suffer least: 

The aconite under the snow 

And the snowdrop crying for a moment in the wood. 

Spring is an issue of blood 
A season of sacrifice 
And the wail of the new full tide 
Returning the ghosts of the dead 
Those whom the winter drowned 
Do not the ghosts of the drowned 
Return to land in the spring? 
Do the dead want to return? 

Pain is the opposite of joy 
But joy is a kind of pain 
I believe the moment of birth 
Is when we have knowledge of death 
I believe the season of birth 
Is the season of sacrifice 
For the tree and the beast, and the fish 
Thrashing itself upstream: 
And what of the terrified spirit 
Compelled to be reborn 
To rise toward the violent sun 
Wet wings into the rain cloud 
Harefoot over the moon? 


What have we been saying? I think I was saying 
That it seemed as if I had been always here 
And you were someone who had come from a long dis- 
Whether I know what I am saying, or why I say it, 
That does not matter. You bring me news 
Of a door that opens at the end of a corridor, 
Sunlight and singing; when I had felt sure *^ 
That every corridor only led to another, 
Or to a blank wall; that I kept moving 
Only so as not to stay still. Singing and light. 
What is that? do you feel it? 


What, Harry? 

That apprehension deeper than all sense, 
Deeper than the sense of smell, but like a smell 
In that it is indescribable, a sweet and bitter smell 
From another world. I know it, I know it! 
More potent than ever before, a vapour dissolving 
All other worlds, and me into it. O Mary! 
Don't look at me like that! Stop! Try to stop it! 
I am going. Oh, why, now? Come out! 
Come out! Where are you? Let me see you, 
Since I know you are there, I know you are spying on 

Why do you play with me, why do you let me go, 

Only to surround me?— When I remember them 

They leave me alone: when I forget them 

Only for an instant of inattention 

They are roused again, the sleepless hunters 

That will not let me sleep. At the moment before sleep 

I always see their claws distended 

Quietly, as if they had never stirred. 

It was only a moment, it was only one moment 

That I stood in sunlight, and thought I might stay 



Look at me. You can depend on me. 

Harry! Harry! It's all right, I tell you. 

If you will depend on me, it will be all right. 

Come out! 

[The curtains part, revealing the Eumenides in the 
window embrasure.] 
Why do you show yourselves now for the first time? 
When I knew her, I was not the same person. 
I was not any person. Nothing that I did 
Has to do with me. The accident of a dreaming mo- 
Of a dreaming age, when I was someone else 
Thinking of something else, puts me among you. 
I tell you, it is not me you are looking at, 
Not me you are grinning at, not me your confidential 

Incriminate, but that other person, if person, 

You thought I was: let your necrophily 
Feed upon that carcase. They will not go. 

Harry! There is no one here. 
[She goes to the window and pulls the curtains across.] 

They were here, I tell you. They are here. 
Are you so imperceptive, have you such dull senses 
That you could not see them? If I had realised 
That you were so obtuse, I would not have listened 
To your nonsense. Can't you help me? 
You're of no use to me. I must face them. 
I must fight them. But they are stupid. 
How can one fight with stupidity? 
Yet I must speak to them. 

[He rushes forward and tears apart the curtains: but the 
embrasure is empty.] 

Oh, Harry! 


. rT c^ 

Scene III 

Harry, Mary, Ivy, Violet, Gerald, Charles 


>>L Good evening, Mary: aren't you dressed yet? 

^> How do you think that Harry is looking? 

Why, who could have pulled those curtains apart? 

[Pulls them together.] 
Very well, I think, after such a long journey; 
You know what a rush he had to be here in time 
For his mother's birthday. 


Mary, my dear, 
Did you arrange these flowers? Just let me change them. 
You don't mind, do you? I know so much about flowers; 
Flowers have always been my passion. 
You know I had my own garden once, in Cornwall, 
When I could afford a garden; and I took several prizes 
With my delphiniums. In fact, I was rather an authority. 

Good evening, Mary. You've seen Harry, I see. 

It's good to have him back again, isn't it? 

We must make him feel at home. And most auspicious 

That he could be here for his mother's birthday. 


I must go and change. I came in very late. 


Now we only want Arthur and John. 
I am glad that you'll all be together, Harry; 
They need the influence of their elder brother. 
Arthur's a bit irresponsible, you know; 
You should have a sobering effect upon him. 
After all, you're the head of the family. 

Amy's Voice 
Violet! Has Arthur or John come yet? 

Neither of them is here yet, Amy. 
[Enter Amy, with Dr. Warburton.] 

It is most vexing. What can have happened? 
I suppose it's the fog that is holding them up, 
So it's no use to telephone anywhere. Harry! 
Haven't you seen Dr. Warburton? 
You know he's the oldest friend of the family, 
And he's known you longer than anybody, Harry. 
When he heard that you were going to be here for 

He broke an important engagement to come. 


I dare say we've both changed a good deal, Harry. 
A country practitioner doesn't get younger. 
It takes me back longer than you can remember 
To see you again. But you can't have forgotten 
The day when you came back from school with measles 
And we had such a time to keep you in bed. 
You didn't like being ill in the holidays. 


It was unpleasant, coming home to have an illness. 


It was always the same with your minor ailments 

And children's epidemics: you would never stay in bed 

Because you were convinced that you would never get 



Not, I think, without some justification: 

For what you call restoration to health 

Is only incubation of another malady. 

You mustn't take such a pessimistic view 
Which is hardly complimentary to my profession. 
But I remember, when I was a student at Cambridge, 
I used to dream of making some great discovery 
To do away with one disease or another. 
Now I've had forty years' experience 
I've left off thinking in terms of the laboratory. 
We're all of us ill in one way or another: 


*> We call it health when we find no symptom 
C Of illness. Health is a relative term. 


You must have had a very rich experience, Doctor, 

In forty years. 


Indeed, yes. 

Even in a country practice. My first patient, now— 

You wouldn't believe it, ladies— was a murderer, 

Who suffered from an incurable cancer. 

How he fought against it! I never saw a man 

More anxious to live. 

Not at all extraordinary. 
It is really harder to believe in murder 
Than to believe in cancer. Cancer is here: 
The lump, the dull pain, the occasional sickness: 
Murder a reversal of sleep and waking. 
Murder was there. Your ordinary murderer v 
Regards himself as an innocent victim. 
To himself he is still what he used to be 
Or what he would be. He cannot realise 
That everything is irrevocable, 
The past unredeemable. But cancer, now, 
That is something real. ^ 

Well, let's not talk of such matters. 
How did we get onto the subject of cancer? 

I really don't know.— But now you're all grown up 
I haven't a patient left at Wishwood. 
Wishwood was always a cold place, but healthy. 
It's only when I get an invitation to dinner 
That I ever see your mother. 


Yes, look at your mother! 
Except that she can't get about now in winter 
You wouldn't think that she was a day older 
Than on her birthday ten years ago. 

Is there any use in waiting for Arthur and John? 


We might as well go in to dinner. 

They may come before we finish. Will you take me in, 

I think we are very much the oldest present- 
In fact we are the oldest inhabitants. 
As we came first, we will go first, in to dinner. 

With pleasure, Lady Monchensey, 
And I hope that next year will bring me the same 

[Exeunt Amy, Dr. Warburton, Harry.] 

I am afraid of all that has happened, and of all that is 
to come; 


Of the things to come that sit at the door, as if they had 

been there always. 
And the past is about to happen, and the future was 

long since settled. 
And the wings of the future darken the past, the beak 

and claws have desecrated 
History. Shamed 
The first cry in the bedroom, the noise in the nursery, 

The family album, rendered ludicrous 
The tenants' dinner, the family picnic on the moors. 

Have torn 
The roof from the house, or perhaps it was never there. 
And the bird sits on the broken chimney. I am afraid. 


This is a most undignified terror, and I must struggle 

against it. 


I am used to tangible danger, but only to what I can 



It is the obtuseness of Gerald and Charles and that 

doctor, that gets on my nerves. 

If the matter were left in my hands, I think I could 
manage the situation. 

[Enter Mary, and passes through to dinner. Enter 



The eye is on this house 
The eye covers it 
There are three together 
May the three be separated 
May the knot that was tied 
Become unknotted 
May the crossed bones 
In the filled-up well 
Be at last straightened 
May the weasel and the otter 
Be about their proper business 
The eye of the day time 
And the eye of the night time 
Be diverted from this house 
Till the knot is unknotted 
The crossed is uncrossed 
And the crooked is made straight. 

[Exit to dinner.] 



Part II 
The Library, After Dinner 

Scene I 

Harry, Warburton 

I'm glad of a few minutes alone with you, Harry. 
In fact, I had another reason for coming this evening 
Than simply in honour of your mother's birthday. 
I wanted a private conversation with you 
On a confidential matter. 


I can imagine- 
Though I think it is probably going to be useless, 
Or if anything, make matters rather more difficult. 
But talk about it, if you like. 


You don't understand me. 
I'm sure you cannot know what is on my mind; 
And as for making matters more difficult- 
It is much more difficult not to be prepared 
For something that is very likely to happen. 

O God, man, the things that are going to happen 
Have already happened. 


That is in a sense true, 
But without your knowing it, and what you know 
Or do not know, at any moment 
May make an endless difference to the future. 
It's about your mother . . . 


What about my mother? 
Everything has always been referred back to mother. 
When we were children, before we went to school, 
The rule of conduct was simply pleasing mother; 
Misconduct was simply being unkind to mother; 
What was wrong was whatever made her suffer, 
>And whatever made her happy was what was virtuous— 
Though never very happy, I remember. That was why 
We all felt like failures, before we had begun. 
When we came back, for the school holidays, 
They were not holidays, but simply a time 
In which we were supposed to make up to mother 
For all the weeks during which she had not seen us 
Except at half-term, and seeing us then 
Only seemed to make her more unhappy, and made us 
Feel more guilty, and so we misbehaved 
Next day at school, in order to be punished, 
For punishment made us feel less guilty. Mother 

Never punished us, but made us feel guilty. 
I think that the things that are taken for granted 
At home, make a deeper impression upon children 
Than what they are told. 


Stop, Harry, you're mistaken. 
I mean, you don't know what I want to tell you. 
You may be quite right, but what we are concerned 

Now, is your mother's happiness in the future, 
For the time she has to live: not with the past. 

Oh, is there any difference! 
( How can we be concerned with the past 
s And not with the future? or with the future 
I And not with the past? What I'm telling you 
Is very important. Very important. 
You must let me explain, and then you can talk. 
I don't know why, but just this evening 
I feel an overwhelming need for explanation— 
But perhaps I only dream that I am talking 
And shall wake to find that I have been silent 
Or talked to the stone deaf: and the others 
Seem to hear something else than what I am saying. 
But if you want to talk, at least you can tell me 
Something useful. Do you remember my father? 

Why, yes, of course, Harry, but I really don't see 

What that has to do with the present occasion 
Or with what I have to tell you. 


What you have to tell me 
Is either something that I know already 
Or unimportant, or else untrue. 
But I want to know more about my father. 
I hardly remember him, and I know very well 
That I was kept apart from him, till he went away. 
We never heard him mentioned, but in some way or 

We felt that he was always here. 
But when we would have grasped for him, there was 

only a vacuum 
Surrounded by whispering aunts: Ivy and Violet- 
Agatha never came then. Where was my father? 

Harry, there's no good probing for misery. 
There was enough once: but what festered 
Then, has only left a cautery. 
Leave it alone. You know that your mother 
And your father were never very happy together: 
They separated by mutual consent 
And he went to live abroad. You were only a boy 
When he died. You would not remember. 

But now I do remember. Not Arthur or John, 
They were too young. But now I remember 

A summer day of unusual heat, 

The day I lost my butterfly net; 

I remember the silence, and the hushed excitement 

And the low conversation of triumphant aunts. 

It is the conversations not overheard, 

Not intended to be heard, with the sidewise looks, 

That bring death into the heart of a child. 

That was the day he died. Of course. 

I mean, I suppose, the day on which the news arrived. 

You overinterpret. 

I am sure that your mother always loved him; 
There was never the slightest suspicion of scandal. 

Scandal? who said scandal? I did not. 
Yes, I see now. That night, when she kissed me, 
I felt the trap close. If you won't tell me, 
I must ask Agatha. I never dared before. 

I advise you strongly, not to ask your aunt— 
I mean, there is nothing she could tell you. But, Harry, 
We can't sit here all the evening, you know; 
You will have to have the birthday celebration, 
And your brothers will be here. Won't you let me tell 

What I had to say? 

' Very well, tell me. 


It's about your mother's health that I wanted to talk 

to you. 
I must tell you, Harry, that although your mother 
Is still so alert, so vigorous of mind, 
Although she seems as vital as ever— 
It is only the force of her personality, 
Her indomitable will, that keeps her alive. 
I needn't go into technicalities 

At the present moment. The whole machine is weak 
And running down. Her heart's very feeble. 
With care, and avoiding all excitement 
She may live several years. A sudden shock 
Might send her off at any moment. 
If she had been another woman 
She would not have lived until now. 
Her determination has kept her going: 
She has only lived for your return to Wishwood, 
For you to take command at Wishwood, 
And for that reason, it is most essential 
That nothing should disturb or excite her. 



I'm very sorry for you, Harry. 
I should have liked to spare you this, 
Just now. But there were two reasons 
Why you had to know. One is your mother, 
To make her happy for the time she has to live. 

The other is yourself: the future of Wishwood 
Depends on you. I don't like to say this; 
But you know that I am a very old friend, 
And have always been a party to the family secrets— 
You know as well as I do that Arthur and John 
Have been a great disappointment to your mother. 
John's very steady— but he's not exactly brilliant; 
And Arthur has always been rather irresponsible. 
Your mother's hopes are all centred on you. 


Hopes? . . . Tell me 

Did you know my father at about my present age? 

Why, yes, Harry, of course I did. 

What did he look like then? Did he look at all like me? 

Very much like you. Of course there are differences: 
But, allowing for the changes in fashion 
And your being clean-shaven, very much like you. 
And now, Harry, let's talk about yourself. 

I never saw a photograph. There is no portrait. 

What I want to know is, whether you've been sleep- 
ing .. . 
[Enter Den man.] 


It's Sergeant Winchell is here, my Lord, 
And wants to see your Lordship very urgent, 
And Dr. Warburton. He says it's very urgent 
Or he wouldn't have troubled you. 


I'll see him. 

[Exit Denman.] 
I wonder what he wants. I hope nothing has happened 
To either of your brothers. 


Nothing can have happened 
To either of my brothers. Nothing can happen— 
If Sergeant Winchell is real. But Denman saw him. 
But what if Denman saw him, and yet he was not 

That would be worse than anything that has happened. 
What if you saw him, and . . . 


Harry! Pull yourself together. 
Something may have happened to one of your brothers. 
[Enter Winchell.] 

Good evening, my Lord. Good evening, Doctor. 
Many happy . . . Oh, I'm sorry, my Lord, 
I was thinking it was your birthday, not her Ladyship's. 

Her Ladyship's! 

[He darts at Winchell and seizes him by the 
He 15 real, Doctor. 
So let us resume the conversation. You and I 
And Winchell. Sit down, Winchell, 
And have a glass of port. We were talking of my father. 

Always at your jokes, I see. You don't look a year older 
Than when I saw you last, my Lord. But a country ser- 
Doesn't get younger. Thank you, no, my Lord; 
I don't find port agrees with the rheumatism. 

For God's sake, Winchell, tell us your business. 
His Lordship isn't very well this evening. 


I understand, Sir. 
It'd be the same if it was my birthday— 
I beg pardon, I'm forgetting. 
If it was my mother's. God rest her soul, 
She's been dead these ten years. How is her Ladyship, 
If I may ask, my Lord? 


Why do you keep asking 
About her Ladyship? Do you know or don't you? 
I'm not afraid of you. 



I should hope not, my Lord. 
I didn't mean to put myself forward. 
But you see, my Lord, I had good reason for asking . . . 

Well, do you want me to produce her for you? 


Oh, no, indeed, my Lord, I'd much rather not . . . 

You mean you think I can't. But I might surprise you; 
I think I might be able to give you a shock. 


There's been shock enough for one evening, my Lord: 
That's what I've come about. 


For Heaven's sake, Winchell, 
Tell us your business. 

It's about Mr. John. 



Yes, my Lord, I'm sorry. 
I thought I'd better have a word with you quiet, 
Rather than phone and perhaps disturb her Ladyship. 
So I slipped along on my bike. Mostly walking, 

What with the fog so thick, or I'd have been here 

I'd telephoned to Dr. Warburton's, 
And they told me he was here, and that you'd arrived. 
Mr. John's had a bit of an accident 
On the West Road, in the fog, coming along 
At a pretty smart pace, I fancy, ran into a lorry 
Drawn up round the bend. We'll have the driver up 

for this: 
Says he doesn't know this part of the country 
And stopped to take his bearings. We've got him at the 

Mr. John, I mean. By a bit of luck 
Dr. Owen was there, and looked him over; 
Says there's nothing wrong but some nasty cuts 
And a bad concussion; says he'll come round 
In the morning, most likely, but he mustn't be moved. 
But Dr. Owen was anxious that you should have a look 

at him. 


Quite right, quite right. I'll go and have a look at 


We must explain to your mother . . . 

Amy's Voice 

Harry! Harry! 
Who's there with you? Is it Arthur or John? 
[Enter Amy, followed severally by Violet, Ivy, Gerald, 

Agatha, and Charles] 
Winchell! what are you here for? 


I'm sorry, my Lady, but I've just told the doctor, 
It's really nothing but a minor accident. 

It's John has had the accident, Lady Monchensey; 
^ And Winchell tells me Dr. Owen has seen him 
C^_And says it's nothing but a slight concussion, 
But he mustn't be moved tonight. I'd trust Owen 
On a matter like this. You can trust Owen. 
We'll bring him up tomorrow; and a few days' rest, 
I've no doubt, will be all that he needs. 

Accident? What sort of an accident? 

Coming along in the fog, my Lady, 
And he must have been in rather a hurry. 
There was a lorry drawn up where it shouldn't be, 
Outside of the village, on the West Road. 


Where is he? 

At the Arms, my Lady; 
Of course, he hasn't come round yet. 
Dr. Owen was there, by a bit of luck. 

I'll go down and see him, Amy, and come back and re- 
port to you. 


I must see for myself. Order the car at once. 

I forbid it, Lady Monchensey. 

As your doctor, I forbid you to leave the house tonight. 
There is nothing you could do, and out in this weather 
At this time of night, I would not answer for the con- 
I am going myself. I will come back and report to you. 

I must see for myself. I do not believe you. 

Much better leave it to Warburton, Amy. 
Extremely fortunate for us that he's here. 
We must put ourselves under Warburton's orders. 

I repeat, Lady Monchensey, that you must not go out. 
If you do, I must decline to continue to treat you. 
You are only delaying me. I shall return at once. 

Well, I suppose you are right. But can I trust you? 

You have trusted me a good many years, Lady Mon- 
This is not the time to begin to doubt me. 
Come, Winchell. We can put your bicycle 

On the back of my car. 

[Exeunt Warburton and Winchell.] 

Well, Harry, 


I think that you might have had something to say. 
Aren't you sorry for your brother? Aren't you aware 
V_Of what is going on? and what it means to your mother? 


Oh, of course I'm sorry. But from what Winchell says 
I don't think the matter can be very serious. 
A minor trouble like a concussion 
Cannot make very much difference to John. 
A brief vacation from the kind of consciousness 
That John enjoys, can't make very much difference 
To him or to anyone else. If he was ever really con- 
I should be glad for him to have a breathing spell: 
But John's ordinary day isn't much more than breath- 


Really, Harry! how can you be so callous? 
I always thought you were so fond of John. 

And if you don't care what happens to John, 
You might show some consideration to your mother. 

I do not know very much: 
And as I get older, I am coming to think 

How little I have ever known. 

But I think your remarks are much more inappropriate 

Than Harry's. 


It's only when they see nothing 
That people can always, show the ..suitable emotions— 
And so far as they feel at all, their emotions are suitable. 
They don't understand what it is to be awake, 
To be living on several planes at once 
Though one cannot speak with several voices at once. 
I have all of the rightminded feeling about John 
That you consider appropriate. Only, that's not the lan- 
That I choose to be talking. I will not talk yours. 


You looked like your father 
When you said that. 

I think, mother, 
I shall make you lie down. You must be very tired. 

[Exeunt Harry and Amy.] 

I really do not understand Harry's behaviour. 

I think it is as well to leave Harry to establish 
If he can, some communication with his mother. 

I do not seem to be very popular tonight. 



Well, there's no sort of use in any of us going— 

On a night like this— it's a good three miles; 

There's nothing we could do that Warburton can't. 

If he's worse than Winchell said, then he'll let us know 

at once. 


I am really more afraid of the shock for Amy; 

But I think that Warburton understands that. 

You are quite right, Gerald, the one thing that matters 
Is not to let her see that anyone is worried. 
We must carry on as if nothing had happened, 
And have the cake and presents. 


But /'m worried about Arthur: 
He's much more apt than John to get into trouble. 

Oh, but Arthur's a brilliant driver. 
After all the experience he's had at Brooklands, 
He's not likely to get into trouble. 

A brilliant driver, but more reckless. 


Yet I remember, when they were boys, 
Arthur was always the more adventurous 
But John was the one that had the accidents, 

Somehow, just because he was the slow one. 
He was always the one to fall off the pony, 
Or out of a tree— and always on his head. 

But a year ago, Arthur took me out in his car, 
And I told him I would never go out with him again. 
Not that I wanted to go with him at ail- 
Though of course he meant well— but I think an open 

Is so undignified: you're blown about so, 
And you feel so conspicuous, lolling back 
And so near the street, and everyone staring; 
And the pace he went at was simply terrifying. 
I said I would rather walk: and I did. 


Walk? where to? 

He started out to take me to Cheltenham; 
But I stopped him somewhere in Chiswick, I think. 
Anyway, the district was unfamiliar 
And I had the greatest trouble in getting home. 
I am sure he meant well. But I do think he is reckless. 

I wonder how much Amy knows about Arthur? 

More than she cares to mention, I imagine. 
[Enter Harry.] 


Mother is asleep, I think: it's strange how the old 
Can drop off to sleep in the middle of calamity 
Like children, or like hardened campaigners. She looked 
Very much as she must have looked when she was a 

You've been holding a meeting— the usual family in- 
On the characters of all the junior members? 
Or engaged in predicting the minor event, 
Engaged in foreseeing the minor disaster? 
You go on trying to think of each thing separately, 
Making small things important, so that everything 
May be unimportant, a slight deviation 
From some imaginary course that life ought to take, 
That you call normal. What you call the normal 
Is merely the unreal and the unimportant. 
I was like that in a way, so long as I could think 
Even of my own life as an isolated ruin, 
A casual bit of waste in an orderly universe. 
But it begins to seem just part of some huge disaster, 
Some monstrous mistake and aberration 
Of all men, of the world, which I cannot put in order. 
If you only knew the years that I have had to live 
Since I came home, a few hours ago, to Wishwood. 

I will make no observation on what you say, Harry; 
My comments are not always welcome in this family. 
[Enter Denman.] 

Excuse me, Miss Ivy. There's a trunk call for you. 


A trunk call? for me? why, who can want me? 

He wouldn't give his name, Miss; but it's Mr. Arthur. 

Arthur! Oh, dear, I'm afraid hes had an accident. 

[Exeunt Ivy and Denman.] 

When it's Ivy that he's asking for, I expect the worst. 


Whatever you have learned, Harry, you must remem- 
That there is always more: we cannot rest in being 
The impatient spectators of malice or stupidity. 
We must try to penetrate the other private worlds 
Of make-believe and fear. To rest in our own suffering 
Is evasion of suffering. We must learn to suffer more. 

Agatha's remarks are invariably pointed. 

Do you think that I believe what I said just now? 
That was only what I should like to believe. 
I was talking in abstractions: and you answered in ab- 


I have a private puzzle. Were they simply outside, 

I might escape somewhere, perhaps. Were they simply 

I could cheat them perhaps with the aid of Dr. War- 

Or any other doctor, who would be another Warbur- 

If you decided to set another doctor on me. 

But this is too real for your words to alter. 

Oh, there must be another way of talking 

That would get us somewhere. You don't understand 

You can't understand me. It's not being alone 

That is the horror, to be alone with the horror. 

What matters is the filthiness. I can clean my skin, 

Purify my life, void my mind, 

But always the filthiness, that lies a little deeper . . . 

[Enter Ivy.] 


Where is there an evening paper? 


Why, what's the matter? 


Somebody, look for Arthur in the evening paper. 
That was Arthur, ringing up from London: 
The connection was so bad, I could hardly hear him, 
And his voice was very queer. It seems that Arthur too 
Has had an accident. I don't think he's hurt, 
But he says that he hasn't got the use of his car, 

And he missed the last train, so he's coming up to- 
And he said there was something about it in the paper, 
But it's all a mistake. And not to tell his mother. 

What's the use of asking for an evening paper? 
You know as well as I do, at this distance from London 
Nobody's likely to have this evening's paper. 


Stop, I think I bought a lunch edition 

Before I left St. Pancras. If I did, it's in my overcoat. 

I'll see if it's there. There might be something in that. 


Well, I said that Arthur was every bit as likely 

To have an accident as John. And it wasn't John's fault, 

I don't believe. John is unlucky, 

But Arthur is definitely reckless. 

I think these racing cars ought to be prohibited. 
[Re-enter Charles, with a newspaper.] 

Yes, there is a paragraph ... I'm glad to say 
It's not very conspicuous . . . 

There'll have been more in the later editions. 
You'd better read it to us. 


Charles [reads] 
'Peer's Brother in Motor Smash' 

'The Hon. Arthur . Gerald Charles Piper, younger 
brother of Lord Monchensey, who ran into and 
demolished a roundsman's cart in Ebury Street 
early on the morning of January ist, was fined £50 
and costs today, and forbidden to drive a car for 
the next twelve months. 

While trying to extricate his car from the collision, 
Mr. Piper reversed into a shop-window. When 
challenged, Mr. Piper said: "I thought it was all 
open country about here"—' 



In Ebury Street. 'The police stated that at the time of 

the accident Mr. Piper was being pursued by a 

patrol, and was travelling at the rate of 66 miles 

£l an hour. When asked why he did not stop when 

^ signalled by the police car, he said: "I thought 

you were having a game with me." ' 

This is what the Communists make capital out of. 

There's a little more. 'The Piper family . . .' no, we 
needn't read that. 

This is just what I expected. But if Agatha 

Is going to moralise about it, I shall scream. 

It's going to be awkward, explaining this to Amy. 


Poor Arthur! I'm sure that you're being much too hard 

on him. 


In my time, these affairs were kept out of the papers; 

But nowadays, there's no such thing as privacy. 


In an old house there is always listening, and more is 
heard than is spoken. 

And what is spoken remains in the room, waiting for 
the future to hear it. 

And whatever happens began in the past, and presses 
hard on the future. 

The agony in the curtained bedroom, whether of birth 
or of dying, 

Gathers in to itself all the voices of the past, and pro- 
jects them into the future. 

The treble voices on the lawn 

The mowing of hay in summer 

The dogs and the old pony 

The stumble and the wail of little pain 

The chopping of wood in autumn 

And the singing in the kitchen 

And the steps at night in the corridor 

The moment of sudden loathing 

And the season of stifled sorrow 

The whisper, the transparent deception 

The keeping up of appearances 

The making the best of a bad job 

All twined and tangled together, all are recorded. 

There is no avoiding these things 

And we know nothing of exorcism 

And whether in Argos or England 

There are certain inflexible laws 

Unalterable, in the nature of music. 

There is nothing at all to be done about it, 

There is nothing to do about anything, 

And now it is nearly time for the news 

We must listen to the weather report 

And the international catastrophes. 

[Exeunt Chorus.] 


Scene II 

Harry, Agatha 

John will recover, be what he always was; 
Arthur again be sober, though not for very long; 
And everything will go on as before. These mild sur- 
Should be in the routine of normal life at Wishwood. 
John is the only one of us I can conceive 
As settling down to make himself at home at Wish- 
Make a dull marriage, marry some woman stupider- 
Stupider than himself. He can resist the influence 
Of Wishwood, being unconscious, living in gentle 

Of horses, and right visits to the right neighbours 
At the right times; and be an excellent landlord. 

What is in your mind, Harry? 

I can guess about the past and what you mean about 
the future; 


But a present is missing, needed to connect them. 
You may be afraid that I would not understand you, 
You may also be afraid of being understood, 
Try not to regard it as an explanation. 

I still have to learn exactly what their meaning is. 
At the beginning, eight years ago, 
I felt, at first, that sense of separation, 
Of isolation unredeemable, irrevocable- 
It's eternal, or gives a knowledge of eternity, 
Because it feels eternal while it lasts. That is one hell. 
Then the numbness came to cover it— that is another— 
That was the second hell of not being there, 
The degradation of being parted from my self, 
From the self which persisted only as an eye, seeing. 
All this last year, I could not fit myself together: 
When I was inside the old dream, I felt all the same 

Or lack of emotion, as before: the same loathing 
Diffused, I not a person, in a world not of persons 
But only of contaminating presences. 
And then I had no horror of my action, 
I only felt the repetition of it 
Over and over. When I was outside, 
I could associate nothing of it with myself, 
Though nothing else was real, I thought foolishly 
That when I got back to Wishwood, as I had left it, 
Everything would fall into place. But they prevent it. 
I still have to find out what their meaning is. 

Here I have been finding 

A misery long forgotten, and a new torture, 

The shadow of something behind our meagre child- 

Some origin of wretchedness. Is that what they would 
show me? 

And now I want you to tell me about my father. 

What do you want to know about your father? 

If I knew, then I should not have to ask. 
You know what I want to know, and that is enough: 
Warburton told me that, though he did not mean to. 
What I want to know is something I need to know, 
And only you can tell me. I know that much. 

I had to fight for many years to win my dispossession, 
And many years to keep it. What people know me as, 
The efficient principal of a women's college— 
That is the surface. There is a deeper 
Organisation, which your question disturbs. 

When I know, I know that in some way I shall find 
That I have always known it. And that will be better. 

I will try to tell you. I hope I have the strength. 


I have thought of you as the completely strong, 
The liberated from the human wheel. 
So I looked to you for strength. Now I think it is 
A common pursuit of liberation. 

Your father might have lived— or so I see him— 
An exceptionally cultivated country squire, 
Reading, sketching, playing on the flute, 
Something of an oddity to his county neighbours, 
But not neglecting public duties. 
He hid his strength beneath unusual weakness, 
The diffidence of a solitary man: 

Where he was weak he recognised your mother's power, 
And yielded to it. 

There was no ecstasy. 
Tell me now, who were my parents? 

Your father and your mother. 


You tell me nothing. 

The dead man whom you have assumed to be your 

And my sister whom you acknowledge as your mother: 
There is no mystery here. 



What then? 

You see your mother as identified with this house- 
It was not always so. There were many years 
Before she succeeded in making terms with Wishwood, 
Until she took your father's place, and reached the 

point where 
Wishwood supported her, and she supported Wishwood. 
At first it was a vacancy. A man and a woman 
Married, alone in a lonely country house together, 
For three years childless, learning the meaning 
Of loneliness. Your mother wanted a sister here 
Always. I was the youngest: I was then 
An undergraduate at Oxford. I came 
Once for a long vacation. I remember 
A summer day of unusual heat 
For this cold country. 


And then? 

There are hours when there seems to be no past or 

Only a present moment of pointed light 
When you want to burn. When you stretch out your 

To the flames. They only come once, 
Thank God, that kind. Perhaps there is another kind, 

I believe, across a whole Thibet of broken stones 

That lie, fang up, a lifetime's march. I have believed 



I have known neither. 

The autumn came too soon, not soon enough. 
The rain and wind had not shaken your father 
/" Awake yet. I found him thinking 
^ How to get rid of your mother. What simple plots! 
He was not suited to the role of murderer. 


In what way did he wish to murder her? 

Oh, a dozen foolish ways, each one abandoned 
For something more ingenious. Youjvyere due in three 

months time; 
You would not have been born in that event: I stopped 

I can take no credit for a little common sense, 
He would have bungled it. 

I did not want to kill you! 
You to be killed! What were you then? only a thing 

called Tife' — 
Something that should have been mine, as I felt then. 
Most people would not have felt that compunction 
If they felt no other. But I w anted you ! 
If that had happened, I knew I should have carried 

Death in life, death through lifetime, death in my 

I felt that you were in some way mine! 
And that in any case I should have no other child. 


And have me. That is the way things happen. 

Everything is true in a different sense, 

A sense that would have seemed meaningless before. 

Everything tends towards reconciliation 

As the stone falls, as the tree falls. And in the end 

That is the completion which at the beginning 

Would have seemed the ruin. 

Perhaps my life has only been a dream 

Dreamt through me by the minds of others. Perhaps 

I only dreamt I pushed her. 


So I had supposed. What of it? 
What we have written is not a story of detection, 
\ Of crime and punishment, but of sin and expiation. 
\[t is possible that you have not known what sin 
You shall expiate, or whose, or why. It is certain 
,That the knowledge of it must precede the expiation. 
It is possible that sin may strain and struggle 
In its dark instinctive birth, to come to consciousness 
And so find expurgation. It is possible 
You are the consciousness of your unhappy family, 
Its bird sent flying through the purgatorial flame. 
Indeed it is possible. You may learn hereafter, 

£—-? Moving alone through flames of ice, chosen 

To resolve the enchantment under which we suffer. 

Look, I do not know why, 

I feel happy for a moment, as if I had come home. 
It is quite irrational, but now 
I feel quite happy, as if happiness 
Did not consist in getting what one wanted 
Or in getting rid of what can't be got rid of 
But in a different vision. This is like an end. 

And a beginning. Harry, my dear, 
I feel very tired, as only the old feel. 
The young feel tired at the end of an action,— 
The old, at the beginning. It is as if 
I had been living all these years upon my capital, 
Instead of earning my spiritual income daily: 
And I am old, to start again to make my living. 

But you are not unhappy, just now? 


What does the word mean? 
There's relief from a burden that I carried, 
And exhaustion at the moment of relief. 
C? The burden's yours now, yours 

The burden of all the family. And I am a little fright- 


You, frightened! I can hardly imagine it. 
I wish I had known— but that was impossible. 
I only now begin to have some understanding 
Of you, and of all of us. Family affection 
Was a kind of formal obligation, a duty 
Only noticed by its neglect. One had that part to play. 
After such training, I could endure, these ten years, 
Playing a part that had been imposed upon me; 
And I returned to find another one made ready- 
Trie book laid out, lines underscored, and the costume 
Ready to be put on. But it is very odd: 
When other people seemed so strong, their apparent 

Stifled my decision. Now I see 
I might even become fonder of my mother- 
More compassionate at least— by understanding. 
But she would not like that. Now I see 
I have been wounded in a war of phantoms, 
Not by human beings— they have no more power than 

The things I thought were real are shadows, and the 

Are what I thought were private shadows. O that awful 

Of the insane mind! Now I can live in public. 
Liberty is a different kind of pain from prison. 

I only looked through the little door 

When the sun was shining on the rose-garden: 

And heard in the distance tiny voices 

And then a black raven flew over. 

And then I was only my own feet walking 

Away, down a concrete corridor 

In a dead air. Only feet walking 

And sharp heels scraping. Over and under 

Echo and noise of feet. 

I was only the feet, and the eye 

Seeing the feet: the unwinking eye 

Fixing the movement. Over and under. 

In and out, in an endless drift 
Of shrieking forms in a circular desert 
Weaving with contagion of putrescent embraces 
On dissolving bone. In and out, the movement 
Until the chain broke, and I was left 
Under the single eye above the desert. 

Up and down, through the stone passages 
Of an immense and empty hospital 
Pervaded by a smell of disinfectant, 
Looking straight ahead, passing barred windows. 
Up and down. Until the chain breaks. 


To and fro, dragging my feet 
Among inner shadows in the smoky wilderness, 
Trying to avoid the clasping branches 


And the giant lizard. To and fro. 
Until the chain breaks. 

The chain breaks, 
The wheel stops, and the noise of machinery, 
And the desert is cleared, under the judicial sun 
Of the final eye, and the awful evacuation 

I was not there, you were not there, only our phantasms 
And what did not happen is as true as what did happen, 

my dear, and you walked through the little door 
And I ran to meet you in the rose-garden. 

This is the next moment. This is the beginning. 
We do not pass twice through the same door 
Or return to the door through which we did not pass. 

1 have seen the first stage: relief from what happened 
Is also relief from that unfulfilled craving 
Flattered in sleep, and deceived in waking. 

You have a long journey. 

Not yet! not yet! this is the first time that I have been 

From the ring of ghosts with joined hands, from the 

And come into a quiet place. 

Why is it so quiet? 
Do you feel a kind of stirring underneath the air? 
Do you? don't you? a communication, a scent 
Direct to the brain . . . but not just as before, 

Not quite like, not the same . . . 

[The Eumenides appear.] 

and this time 

You cannot think that I am surprised to see you. 

And you shall not think that I am afraid to see you. 

This time, you are real, this time, you are outside me, 

And just endurable. I know that you are ready, 

Ready to leave Wishwood, and I am going with you. 

You followed me here, where I thought I should escape 

No! you were already here before I arrived. 

Now I see at last that I am following you, 

And I know that there can be only one itinerary 

And one destination. Let us lose no time. I will follow. 

[The curtains close. Agatha goes to the window, in a 
somnambular fashion, and opens the curtains, dis- 
closing the empty embrasure. She steps into the 
place which the Eumenides had occupied.] 

A curse comes to being 
As a child is formed. 
In both, the incredible 
Becomes the actual 
Without our intention 
Knowing what is intended. 
A curse is like a child, formed 
In a moment of unconsciousness 
In an accidental bed 
Or under an elder tree 


According to the phase 

Of the determined moon. 

A curse is like a child, formed 

To grow to maturity: 

Accident is design 

And design is accident 

In a cloud of unknowing. 

O my child, my curse, 

You shall be fulfilled: 

The knot shall be unknotted 

And the crooked made straight. 

[She moves back into the room.] 
What have I been saying? I think I was saying 
That you have a long journey. You have nothing to 

stay for. 
Think of it as like a children's treasure hunt: 
Here you have found a clue, hidden in the obvious 

Delay, and it is lost. Love compels cruelty 
To those who do not understand love. 
What you have wished to know, what you have learned 
Mean the end of a relation, make it impossible. 
You did not intend this, I did not intend it, 
No one intended, but . . . You must go. 

Shall we ever meet again? 


Shall we ever meet again? 

And who will meet again? Meeting is for strangers. 
Meeting is for those who do not know each other. 

I know that I have made a decision 
In a moment of clarity, and now I feel dull again. 
I only know that I made a decision 
Which your words echo. I am still befouled, 
But I know there is only one way out of defilement— 
Which leads in the end to reconciliation. 
And I know that I must go. 


You must go. 

[Enter Amy.] 


What are you saying to Harry? He has only arrived, 

And you tell him to go? 


He shall go. 

He shall go? and who are you to say he shall go? 
I think I know well enough why you wish him to go. 

I wish nothing. I only say what I know must happen. 

You only say what you intended to happen. 


Oh, mother, 
This is not to do with Agatha, any more than with the 

rest of you. 
My advice has come from quite a different quarter, 
But I cannot explain that to you now. Only be sure 
That I know what I am doing, and what I must do, 
And that it is the best thing for everybody. 
But at present, I cannot explain it to anyone: 
I do not know the words in which to explain it— 
That is what makes it harder. You must just believe 

Until I come again. 

But why are you going? 


I can only speak 
And you cannot hear me. I can only speak 
So you may not think I conceal an explanation, 
And to tell you that I would have liked to explain. 


Why should Agatha know, and I not be allowed to? 

I do not know whether Agatha knows 
Or how much she knows. Any knowledge she may 

It was not I who told her . . . All this year, 

This last year, I have been in flight 
But always in ignorance of invisible pursuers. 
Now I know that all my life has been a flight 
And phantoms fed upon me while I fled. Now I know 
, That the last apparent refuge, the safe shelter, 
C That is where one meets them. That is the way of 
f spectres . . . 

There is no one here. 
No one, but your family! 


And now I know 
^7 That my business is not to run away, but to pursue, 
Not to avoid being found, but to seek. 
I would not have chosen this way, had there been any 

It is at once the hardest thing, and the only thing pos- 
Now they will lead me. I shall be safe with them; 
I am not safe here. 

So you will run away. 

In a world of fugitives 
The person taking the opposite direction 
Will appear to run awav. 

Will appear to run away. 


I was speaking to Harry. 


It is very hard, when one has just recovered sanity, 

And not yet assured in possession, that is when 

One begins to seem the maddest to other people. 

It is hard for you too, mother, it is indeed harder, 

Not to understand. 


Where are you going? 


I shall have to learn. That is still unsettled. 

I have not yet had the precise directions. 

Where does one go from a world of insanity? 

Somewhere on the other side of despair. 

To the worship in the desert, the thirst and deprivation, 

A stony sanctuary and a primitive altar, 

The heat of the sun and the icy vigil, 

A care over lives of humble people, 

The lesson of ignorance, of incurable diseases. 

Such things are possible. It is^ love and terror 

Of what waits and wants me, and will not let me fall. 

Let the cricket chirp. John shall be the master. 

All I have is his. No harm can come to him. 

What would destroy me will be life for John, 

I am responsible for him. Why I have this election 

I do not understand. It must have been preparing al- 

And I see it was what I always wanted. Strength de- 

That seems too much, is just strength enough given. 

I must follow the bright angels. 

Ill L J 

Scene III 

Amy, Agatha 

I was a fool, to ask you again to Wishwood; 
But I thought, thirty-five years is long, and death is an 

And I thought that time might have made a change in 
^7 It has made enough in me. Thirty-five years ago 

You took my husband from me. Now you take my son. 

What did I take? nothing that you ever had. 
What did I get? thirty years of solitude, 
Alone, among women, in a women's college, 
Trying not to dislike women. Thirty years in which to 

Do you suppose that I wanted to return to Wishwood? 

The more rapacious, to take what I never had; 
The more unpardonable, to taunt me with not having 


Had you taken what I had, you would have left me at 

least a memory 
Of something to live upon. You knew that you took 

Except the walls, the furniture, the acres; 
Leaving nothing— but what I could breed for myself, 
What I could plant here. Seven years I kept him, 
For the sake of the future, a discontented ghost, 
In his own house. What of the humiliation, 
Of the chilly pretences in the silent bedroom, 
Forcing sons upon an unwilling father? 
Dare you think what that does to one? Try to think 

of it. . 
Ijufouldjhaw^. . sons, if I -could not have a husband : 
Then I let him go. I abased myself. 
Did I show any weakness, any self-pity? 
I forced myself to the purposes of Wish wood; 
I even asked you back, for visits, after he was gone, 
So that there might be no ugly rumours. 
You thought I did not know! 
You may be close, but I always saw through him. 
And now it is my son. 


I know one thing, Amy: 
That you have never changed. And perhaps I have not. 
I thought that I had, until this evening. 
But at least I wanted to. Now I must begin. 
There is nothing more difficult. But you are just the 


Just as voracious for what you cannot have 
Because you repel it. 


I prepared the situation 
For us to be reconciled, because of Harry, 
Because of his mistakes, because of his unhappiness, 
Because of the misery that he has left behind him, 
Because of the waste. I wanted to obliterate 
His past life, and have nothing except to remind him 
Of the years when he had been a happy boy at Wish- 
For his future success. 


Success is relative: 

It is what we can make of the mess we have made of 


It is what he can make, not what you would make for 



Success is one thing, what you would make for him 

Is another. I call it failure. Your fury for possession 

Is only the stronger for all these years of abstinence. 

Thirty-five years ago you took my husband from me 

And now you take my son. 


Why should we quarrel for what neither can have? 
If neither has ever had a husband or a son 
We have no ground for argument. 

_ Amy 

Who set you up to judge? what, if you please, 

Gives you the power to know what is best for Harry? 

What gave you this influence to persuade him 
\ To abandon his duty, his family and his happiness? 
/ Who has planned his good? is it you or I? 

Thirty-five years designing his life, 

Eight years watching, without him, at Wishwood, 

Years of bitterness and disappointment. 

What share had you in this? what have you given? 

And now at the moment of success against failure, 

When I felt assured of his settlement and happiness, 

You who took my husband, now you take my son. 

You take him from Wishwood, you take him from me, 

You take him . . 

[Enter Mary.] 


Excuse me, Cousin Amy. I have just seen Denman. 

She came to tell me that Harry is leaving: 

Downing told her. He has got the car out. 

What is the matter? 


That woman there, 

She has persuaded him: I do not know how. 

I have been always trying to make myself believe 

That he was not such a weakling as his father 

In the hands of any unscrupulous woman. 

/ have no influence over him; you can try, 

But you will not succeed: she has some spell 

That works from generation to generation. 


Is Harry really going? 


He is going. 
But that is not my spell, it is none of my doing: 
I have only watched and waited. In this world 
It is inexplicable, the resolution is in another. 


Oh, but it is the danger comes from another! 
Can you not stop him? Cousin Agatha, stop him! 
You do not know what I have seen and what I know! 
He is in great danger, I know that, don't ask me, 
You would not believe me, but I tell you I know. 
You must keep him here, you must not let him leave. 
I do not know what must be done, what can be done, 
/ Even here, but elsewhere, everywhere, he is in danger. 
I will stay or I will go, whichever is better; 
I do not care what happens to me, 
But Harry must not go. Cousin Agatha! 

/"Here the danger, here the death, here, not elsewhere; 
\ Elsewhere no doubt is agony, renunciation, 

But birth and life. Harry has crossed the frontier 
I Beyond which safety and danger have a different 
/ meaning. 

( And he cannot return. That is his privilege. 
For those who live in this world, this world only, 
Do you think that I would take the responsibility 

Of tempting them over the border? No one could, no 

one who knows. 
No one who has the least suspicion of what is to be 

found there. 
But Harry has been led across the frontier: he must 

For him the death is now only on this side, 
For him, danger and safety have another meaning. 
They have made this clear. And I who have seen them 

must believe them. 

Oh! . . . so . . . you have seen them too! 

We must all go, each in his own direction, 
You, and I, and Harry. You and I, 
My dear, may very likely meet again 
In our wanderings in the neutral territory 
Between two worlds. 


Then you will help me! 
You remember what I said to you this evening? 
I knew that I was right: you made me wait for this— 
Only for this. I suppose I did not really mean it 
Then, but I mean it now. Of course it was much too 

Then, for anything to come for me: I should have 

known it; 
It was all over, I believe, before it began; 

But I deceived myself. It takes so many years 
To learn that one is dead! So you must help me. 
I will go. But I suppose it is much too late 
Now, to try to get a fellowship? 


So you will all leave me! 
An old woman alone in a damned house. 
I will let the walls crumble. Why should I worry 
To keep the tiles on the roof, combat the endless 

Resist the wind? fight with increasing taxes 
And unpaid rents and tithes? nourish investments 
With wakeful nights and patient calculations 
With the solicitor, the broker, agent? Why should I? 
It is no concern of the body in the tomb 
To bother about the upkeep. Let the wind and rain do 
[While Amy has been speaking, Harry has entered, 
dressed for departure^ 

But, mother, you will always have Arthur and John 
To worry about: not that John is any worry— 
The destined and the perfect master of Wishwood, 
The satisfactory son. And as for me, 
I am the last you need to worry about; 
I have my course to pursue, and I am safe from normal 

If I pursue it. I cannot account for this 
But it is so, mother. Until I come again. 


If you go now, I shall never see you again. 

[Meanwhile Violet, Gerald and Charles have 

Where is Harry going? What is the matter? 


Ask Agatha. 
Why, what's the matter? Where is he going? 


Ask Agatha. 
I cannot understand at all. Why is he leaving? 


Ask Agatha. 
Really, it sometimes seems to me 
That I am the only sane person in this house. 
Your behaviour all seems to me quite unaccountable. 
What has happened, Amy? 

^_^, -£-c&T Amy 

Harry is going away— to become a missionary. 

But ... ! 



A missionary! that's never happened in our family! 

And why in such a hurry? Before you make up your 

mind . . . 


You can't really think of living in a tropical climate! 

There's nothing wrong with a tropical climate- 
But you have to go in for some sort of training; 
The medical knowledge is the first thing. 
I've met with missionaries, often enough- 
Some of them very decent fellows. A maligned profes- 
They're sometimes very useful, knowing the natives, 
Though occasionally troublesome. But you'll have to 

learn the language 
And several dialects. It means a lot of preparation. 

And you need some religious qualification! 
I think you should consult the vicar . . . 


And don't forget 
That you'll need various inoculations— 
That depends on where you're going. 


Such a thing 
Has never happened in our family. 


I cannot understand it. 

I never said that I was going to be a missionary. 
I would explain, but you would none of you believe it; 
If you believed it, still you would not understand. 
You can't know why I'm going. You have not seen 
What I have seen. Oh, why should you make it so 

Just now? I only want, please, 
As little fuss as possible. You must get used to it; 
Meanwhile, I apologise for my bad manners. 
But if you could understand you would be quite happy 

about it, 
So I shall say good-bye, until we meet again. 

Well, if you are determined, Harry, we must accept it; 
But it's a bad night, and you will have to be careful. 
You're taking Downing with you? 


Oh, yes, I'm taking Downing. 
You need not fear that I am in any danger 
Of such accidents as happen to Arthur and John: 
Take care of them. My address, mother, 
Will be care of the bank in London until you hear from 

Good-bye, mother. 


Good-bye, Harry. 






Good-bye, Mary. 


Good-bye, Harry. Take care of yourself. 

[Exit Harry.] 

At my age, I only just begin to apprehend the truth 

About things too late to mend: and that is to be old. 

Nevertheless, I am glad if I can come to know them. 

I always wanted too much for my children, 

More than life can give. And now I am punished for it. 

Gerald! you are the stupidest person in this room, 

Violet, you are the most malicious in a harmless way; 

I prefer your company to that of any of the others 

Just to help me to the next room. Where I can lie down. 

Then you can leave me. 


Oh, certainly, Amy. 


I do not understand 

A single thing that's happened. 

[Exeunt Amy, Violet, Gerald.] 



It's very odd, 
But I am beginning to feel, just beginning to feel 
That there is something I could understand, if I were 

told it. 
But I'm not sure that I want to know. I suppose I'm 

getting old: 
Old age came softly up to now. I felt safe enough; 
And now I don't feel safe. As if the earth should open 
Right to the centre, as I was about to cross Pall Mall. 
I thought that life could bring no further surprises; 
But I remember now, that I am always surprised 
By the bull-dog in the Burlington Arcade. 
What if every moment were like that, if one were 

You both seem to know more about this than I do. 
[Enter Downing, hurriedly, in chauffeur's costume.] 

Oh, excuse me, Miss, excuse me, Mr. Charles: 
His Lordship sent me back because he remembered 
He thinks he left his cigarette-case on the table. 
Oh, there it is. Thank you. Good night, Miss; good 

Miss Mary; good night, Sir. 


Downing, will you promise never to leave his Lord- 
While you are away? 


Oh, certainly, Miss; 
I'll never leave him so long as he requires me. 

But he will need you. You must never leave him. 

You may think it laughable, what I'm going to say- 
But it's not really strange, Miss, when you come to look 

at it: 
After all these years that I've been with him 
I think I understand his Lordship better than anybody; 
And I have a kind of feeling that his Lordship won't 

need me 
Very long now. I can't give you any reasons. 
But to show you what I mean, though you'd hardly 

credit it, 
I've always said, whatever happened to his Lordship 
Was just a kind of preparation for something else. 
I've no gift of language, but I'm sure of what I mean: 
We most of us seem to live according to circumstance, 
But with people like him, there's something inside them 
That accounts for what happens to them. You get a 

feeling of it. 
So I seem to know beforehand, when something's going 

to happen, 
And it seems quite natural, being his Lordship. 
And that's why I say now, I have a feeling 
That he won't want me long, and he won't want any- 



And, Downing, if his behaviour seems unaccountable 

At times, you mustn't worry about that. 

He is every bit as sane as you or I, 
—-) He sees the world as clearly as you or I see it, 
(^ It is only that he has seen a great deal more than that, 

And we have seen them too— Miss Mary and I. 

I understand you, Miss. And if I may say so, 
Now that you've raised the subject, I'm most relieved— 
If you understand my meaning. I thought that was the 

We was off tonight. In fact, I half expected it, 
So I had the car all ready. You mean them ghosts, Miss! 
I wondered when his Lordship would get round to 

seeing them— 
And so you've seen them too! They must have given 

you a turn! 
They did me, at first. You soon get used to them. 
| Of course, I knew they was to do with his Lordship, 
J And not with me, so I could see them cheerful-like, 
/ In a manner of speaking. There's no harm in them, 
I'll take my oath. Will that be all, Miss? 

That will be all, thank you, Downing. We mustn't keep 

His Lordship will be wondering why you've been so 

[Exit Downing. Enter Ivy.] 



Where is Downing going? where is Harry? 
Look. Here's a telegram come from Arthur; 
[Enter Gerald and Violet.] 
I wonder why he sent it, after telephoning. 
Shall I read it to you? I was wondering 
Whether to show it to Amy or not. 

'Regret delayed business in town many happy returns 

see you tomorrow many happy returns hurrah love 

I mean, after what we know of what did happen, 
Do you think Amy ought to see it? 


No, certainly not. 
You do not know what has been going on, Ivy. 
And if you did, you would not understand it. 
I do not understand, so how could you? Amy is not well; 
And she is resting. 

Oh, I'm sorry. But can't you explain? 
Why do you all look so peculiar? I think I might be 

To know what has happened. 

Amy's Voice 

Agatha! Mary! come! 
The clock has stopped in the dark! 

[Exeunt Agatha and Mary. Pause. 
Enter Warburton.] 


Well! it's a filthy night to be out in. 

That's why I've been so long, going and coming. 

ut I'm glad to say that John is getting on nicely; 

It wasn't so serious as Winchell made out, 

And we'll have him up here in the morning. 

I hope Lady Monchensey hasn't been worrying? 

I'm anxious to relieve her mind. Why, what's the 


[Enter Mary.] 


Dr. Warburton! 


Excuse me. 

[Exeunt Mary and Warburton.] 


We do not like to look out of the same window, and see 
quite a different landscape. 

We do not like to climb a stair, and find that it takes us 

We do not like to walk out of a door, and find our- 
selves back in the same room. 

We do not like the maze in the garden, because it too 
closely resembles the maze in the brain. 

We do not like what happens when we are awake, be- 
cause it too closely resembles what happens when 
we are asleep. 

We understand the ordinary business of living, 

We know how to work the machine, 

We can usually avoid accidents, 
We are insured against fire, 
Against larceny and illness, 
Against defective plumbing, 
But not against the act of God. 
We know various spells and enchantments, 
And minor forms of sorcery, 
Divination and chiromancy, 
Specifics against insomnia, 
Lumbago, and the loss of money. 
But the circle of our understanding 
Is a very restricted area. 
Except for a limited number 
Of strictly practical purposes 
We do not know what we are doing; 
And even, when you think of it, 
We do not know much about thinking. 
What is happening outside of the circle? 
And what is the meaning of happening? 
What ambush lies beyond the heather 
And behind the Standing Stones? 
Beyond the Heaviside Layer 
And behind the smiling moon? 
And what is being done to us? 
And what are we, and what are we doing? 
To each and all of these questions 
There is no conceivable answer. 
We have suffered far more than a personal loss— 
We have lost our way in the dark. 


I shall have to stay till after the funeral: will my ticket 
to London still be valid? 

I do not look forward with pleasure to dealing with 
Arthur and John in the morning. 

We must wait for the will to be read. I shall send a 
wire in the morning. 

I fear that my mind is not what it was— or was it?— and 
yet I think that I might understand. 


But we must adjust ourselves to the moment: we must 
do the right thing. 


[Enter, from one door, Agatha and Mary, and set a 
small portable table. From another door, enter 
Denman carrying a birthday cake with lighted 
candles, which she sets on the table. Exit Denman. 
Agatha and Mary walk slowly in single file round 
and round the table, clockwise. At each revolution 
they blow out a few candles, so that their last words 
are spoken in the dark.] 

A curse is slow in coming 
To complete fruition 


It cannot be hurried 
And it cannot be delayed 

It cannot be diverted 
An attempt to divert it 
Only implicates others 
At the day of consummation 

A curse is a power 
Not subject to reason 
Each curse has its course 
Its own way of expiation 

Follow follow 

Not in the day time 
And in the hither world 
Where we know what we are doing 
There is not its operation 
Follow follow 

But in the night time 
And in the nether world 
Where the meshes we have woven 
Bind us to each other 

Follow follow 

A curse is written 


On the under side of things 
Behind the smiling mirror 
And behind the smiling moon 
Follow follow 

This way the pilgrimage 
Of expiation 

Round and round the circle 
Completing the charm 
So the knot be unknotted 
The crossed be uncrossed 
The crooked be made straight 
And the curse be ended 
By intercession 
By pilgrimage c 
By those who depart 
In several directions 
For their own redemption 
And that of the departed- 
May they rest in peace. 


The family reunion, main 
812.5E42f C.2 

3 ISbE D31bD DM7D 

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